No successful prosecutions against perpetrators of Female Genital Mutilation have been made in the 30 years since it has been made illegal, it has emerged.
The Home Affairs Select Committee slammed the “lamentable record” as “beyond belief” saying it said would deter those brave enough to step forward and report this horrendous crime.
Interim chair of the committee Tim Loughton said: “We are dismayed that there have been no convictions for FGM-related offences. When we next review FGM, the new laws against the practice will have 'bedded in' and we expect to see a number of successful prosecutions.”
The paucity of good data on FGM in the UK makes it difficult to assess the scale of the problem, but a City University study estimated that there were approximately 137,000 women and girls subjected to FGM who were permanently resident in England and Wales in 2011.
The committee says that the ongoing failure to bring a successful prosecution for FGM is a "national scandal that is continuing to result in the preventable mutilation of thousands of girls".
The committee is calling on government to introduce stronger sanctions for failing to meet the mandatory reporting responsibility after being alarmed by reports that some clinicians are ignoring the duty on frontline healthcare professionals, social care workers and teachers to record data on FGM incidence.
The report finds that cross-departmental efforts to tackle FGM are disjointed. It urges the Home Office's FGM Unit to be made a joint enterprise between the Home Office, the Department of Health and the Department for Education, with the remit, powers and budget to become the sole source of government policy for safeguarding girls at risk and meeting the government's ambition to eradicate FGM "within a generation".
While the committee applauds the government's efforts to safeguard girls at risk of being taken abroad to undergo the practice — particularly during school holidays, a time known as the 'cutting season' — it warns that it must provide better intelligence to airside Border Force officers on the regional prevalence of FGM within practicing countries which would enable a more sophisticated targeting of individuals likely to be abetting the crime.
To achieve that, the FGM Unit must immediately form operational links with police and Border Force airside operations, to provide intelligence and guidance on high-risk countries, it adds.
The committee is urging a more sophisticated, data-driven approach to eradication that would see the government engage directly with affected and at-risk women and girls. The government should conduct research to ascertain attitudes towards FGM, the motivations for continuing to inflict the procedure, and to measure awareness the law prohibiting it amongst practicing communities.
“FGM can leave women and girls with significant lifelong health and psychological consequences. We intend to continue to draw attention to this horrific crime to improve the safeguarding of at-risk girls,” said Tim Loughton. “We welcome many of the steps that the government has taken to prevent FGM and our report calls for that work to be enhanced and strengthened with adequate resources and support for frontline professionals and other groups which work directly with practicing communities.”